I am so excited to be able to take part in the blog tour for The Art of Getting Stared At by Laura Langston. This book had such an important message that I think needs to be shared with girls of ALL ages. The unifying theme of this tour is for each participant to share what we would tell our younger self about body image/confidence if we had the opportunity to go back in time and do so. I would love to be able to go back to myself in high school and get it into my teen self’s head that the opinion of the people around me isn’t going to matter in a few years and that I should just make sure I am happy with myself and not worry what ANYONE has to say. Hindsight is 20/20, right?
The Art of Getting Stared At
Genre: Contemporary, YA
Publication date: September 9, 2014
After a school video she produced goes viral, sixteen-year-old Sloane is given the biggest opportunity of her life – a chance for a film school scholarship. She has less than two weeks to produce a second video, something with depth, and she’s determined to do it. The trouble is she has to work with Isaac Alexander, an irresponsible charmer with whom she shares an uneasy history.
On the heels of this good news/bad news opportunity, Sloane finds a bald spot on her head. The pink patch, no bigger than a quarter, shouldn't be there. Neither should the bald spots that follow. Horror gives way to devastation when Sloane is diagnosed with alopecia areata. The autoimmune disease has no cause, no cure and no definitive outcome. The spots might grow over tomorrow or they might be there for life. She could become completely bald. No one knows.
Determined to produce her video and keep her condition secret, Sloane finds herself turning into the kind of person she has always mocked: someone obsessed with their looks. She’s also forced to confront a painful truth: she is as judgmental as anyone else…but she saves the harshest judgments for herself.
-A copy was provided by Penguin Canada for review-
The Art of Getting Stared At was a book that I knew I needed in my life the moment I first glanced at the cover. After skimming the blurb it solidified my decision and I am so happy that I decided to request it from Penguin and that I get to take part in the blog tour.
In the novel we meet Sloane, a high school student who was raised by her mother to think that smarts are much more important than vanity. Her world is turned upside down when she begins finding bald spots on her head and is subsequently diagnosed with alopecia. I went through a vast array of emotions reading this novel, at first I thought that it wasn’t a big deal, she was just losing hair and hair will always grow back but once I learned more about the affliction I felt really bad for Sloane. High school is such a difficult time to be different and to be affected by something that changes your appearance in such a shocking way. I loved the way Langston wrote about her character and the ones around her coming to terms with this diagnosis. It was interesting to see someone who was so against altering her appearance with makeup or even fancy clothes realize that there is nothing wrong with wanting to look good. Sloane’s need to hide what was happening to her changed her whole outlook on life and it was no overnight change, it felt really organic and I appreciated that so much. I can’t stress enough how well Sloane’s change is handled in the pages of this novel.
Just as important to making this book a success in my eyes are the relationships it encompasses. From Sloane’s relationship with her, in her eyes, “evil” stepmother to her budding relationship with Isaac, these threads weaved people into the story that I really came to care about. The key to everyone here is that nobody is who they seem to be on the outside, and that you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover, it was true of so many different people here. I wasn’t sure about Isaac at first, he seemed cocky and pretty arrogant but he became someone that blew me away and his patience as he tried to win Sloane over was amazing. Just as touching is the bond Sloane has with the children at the hospital where she volunteers. Not only did this action serve to make her character into someone I could really lend my heart to but it also served as a great reminder to keep things in perspective for me as a reader and for the characters we meet.
The Art of Getting Stared At has such an important message and it will definitely be a novel that I keep around for my daughter to read when she gets a bit older. I haven’t been seeing too much buzz about this one so I think I am going to have to take it upon myself to get it into as many hands as possible. Langston is clearly an author to watch and someone who knows how to handle difficult subjects with equal measures of honesty and heart.
4 Hot Espressos
Guest Post from Laura Langston
Xpresso Reads: Do you think the perception of girls in media is getting worse or better?
To be honest, I think you can argue both sides of this question. As an aside, I think it’s interesting that you use the word girls because whereas a decade ago, we’d be talking about the perception of teens in the media, we’re now talking about the perception of girls and I think that’s troubling. Girls as young as ten, eleven and twelve are being ‘adultified’ (some would say sexualized) and that’s a real and growing concern. But is it the fault of the media? Or is society as a whole driving it? I think it’s a little of both. Besides, how do you separate media from society? It’s a chicken and the egg thing.
On the positive side, there are stories and articles coming out regularly showing empowered teens. The 2014 Shorty Awards, for instance, honored a number of teens who demonstrate positive qualities in the media and get regular coverage for it. Sixteen-year-old Gabby Frost won for The Buddy Project, and you don’t have to look far to find others like her. Sites like Raw Beauty on Instagram contribute to the positive perception of girls and young women as well, and that’s a good thing.
There are also more articles and reports coming out asking us to critically examine our personal beliefs around what we find acceptable. I like to highlight them on my Facebook author page and one link I put there not long ago was this: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/26/photoshop-around-the-world_n_5534062.html?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000063
It took the picture of a young woman without makeup, sent it to magazine editors around the world and asked them to ‘ready’ the image for their magazine. The results were astounding. That the article was written, went viral, and was seen by so many women was a wonderful testament to the positive power of the media, and no doubt caused some people to think more objectively about what they see in magazines.
However, the fact that the image itself was doctored, and doctored quite heavily in many cases, supports the argument that the perception of women and girls is getting worse. And that was just one case. As I stated earlier, I find the media’s ‘adultification’ of young girls troubling. It also worries me that many of the pictures uploaded to Facebook and Instagram these days are photoshopped by women before they share them. That tells me that those people are buying into the belief that they aren’t good enough as they are, that they somehow need to ‘fix themselves’ before they go into the world.
That’s just sad.
In the end, I think we find what we’re looking for, and what we’re prepared to see. There are always going to be negative and positive portrayals in the media. Because of that, I think we need to be vigilant. We need to look for the good, question the bad, and be willing to speak up and stand up for honest, real portrayals in the media.
About the Author
By the time she hit Grade Four, Laura Langston knew she wanted to be a writer. So did the teachers. It was the persistent daydreaming and invisible friends that tipped them off. Since Laura grew up knowing no writers – and consequently didn’t know how to be one – she became a journalist instead. The trouble is, journalists are expected to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
But making stuff up is way more fun. So eventually Laura traded one notebook for another and today she writes books for tweens, teens, children and sometimes adults.
When she’s not writing, reading or walking her Shetland sheepdogs, Laura can be found spying on people in the grocery store or twisting herself into a pretzel in yoga class.